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From: "Robert Borski" <rborski@coredcs.com>
Subject: (urth) Jonas
Date: Wed, 26 May 1999 13:29:21 

Because it's been slow lately, I hereby offer UNDINES Excerpt 6:

Cyborg Jonas, like so many of the characters in New Sun, represents a
composite figure, being in part based on Hans Christian Anderson's "The Tin
Soldier," and in part on L. Frank Baum's Tin Woodsman. But what about
Jonas's human side? Are there archetypes or literary forebears that Wolfe
draws upon to amplify this aspect of his character? I believe there are,
and that each, while incorporating the notion of wandering as expiation,
plays off Severian's Christlike persona. For in many respects, Jonas, who
has been traveling up and down the seven continents of the world, looking
to reconnect with the Hierodules, and "tinkering with clumsy mechanisms,"
embodies the figure of Ahasuerus the Wandering Jew. Ahasuerus, we recall,
was alleged to have mocked Christ on his journey to Calvary and was
therefore condemned to wander the earth until the Second Coming. Severian,
representing Christ, has not only come again, but been befriended by
Ahasuerus/Jonas--an act of redemption by the latter that finally liberates
him from exile; like Dorothy now, he can return home, and does so via
Father Inire's mirrors. 

But Jonas's admission about "tinkering with clumsy devices" also recalls
the Gypsies--aka *tinkers*--who according to legend have been condemned to
eternal wandering because they provided the nails for Christ's crucifixion.
Given as well the Gypsies' traditional association with metalworking, is it
possible the grinder who at one time attempts to sharpen Terminus Est is
somehow connected with Jonas? The grinder, who has been encountered by
Severian and Dorcas north of Thrax, is part of a "caravan of tinkers and
peddlers," but becomes frightened when he lifts the mercury-filled blade.
Now recall Severian's words when he first attempts to do the same: "She
shifted as though I wrestled a serpent." Or to put it another way, *as if
the metal were alive.* Could this then be Wolfe at his most ironic, hinting
that this peripatetic tinker who's afraid of "living metal" is somehow
related to cyborg Jonas, who also embodies living metal? A further
connection might be found in Miles's razor, which Severian describes as
"one of those little blades that country people use, razors their smiths
grind from the halves of worn oxshoes." It may even have been made by the
aforesaid tinker. Yet another possiblility still: the grinder may be the
human killed when Jonas's landing ship crashes, and from whom he harvests
his organic parts. But how can this be? Hasn't the crash in question taken
place in the past, thereby vitiating this supposition? Not necessarily. For
isn't Jonas, a former servitor of the Hierodules, from Yesod? And wouldn't
his sense of time, like that of his creators, run counter to ours? This
would allow for Jonas/Sidero to have crashed in the future, harvested what
he needed from the killed tinker, and then lived his life backwards (at
least from our frame of reference) until the point he encounters Severian,
who assists him in his quest to return home, thereby ending his long period
of exile. 

Ahasuerus, in other words, apparently never read Thomas Wolfe.

Robert Borski

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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